NEW YORK – Research shows students with international experience often have improved career prospects upon graduating. However, under 10 percent of U.S. undergraduates study abroad, and even fewer are members of minority communities or first-generation students.
Now in its fifth year, the fully-funded Cultural Vistas Fellowship was created to increase and diversify the number of Americans with global experience. This year’s 12 fellows, selected from a nationally-competitive pool, started immersive eight-week summer internships in Argentina, Germany, and India this month.
Cultural Vistas directly funds the program as part of its commitment to create more opportunities for Americans to go abroad and remove cost as an obstacle.
“I wanted an international experience but I have absolutely no money,” said 2017 Cultural Vistas Fellow Simone Freeman, a rising senior at Geneva College in Pennsylvania. Freeman is spending her summer in Berlin working with refugees through Stadtmission. “[Cultural Vistas] was one of the only organizations I’ve seen that would cover something as big as a plane ticket and housing…I wouldn’t have been able to afford that by myself.”
Since its inception in 2013, Cultural Vistas has reinvested $225,000 directly from its own revenue into the Cultural Vistas Fellowship. This has provided over 50 American undergraduate students from 43 universities across the country the opportunity to gain valuable work experience abroad. Moreover, in 2017 two Cultural Vistas Fellows’ experiences are being supported by donations from alumni in honor of Tom Hagemann and Patricia Monter.
As the job market becomes more globalized, many of this year’s fellows said they hoped to gain skills this summer they will use in their future careers.
“One of my goals is to learn how to advocate for vulnerable communities internationally,” said Kimberly Jessica Ramirez Gonzalez, a rising junior at University of California, Merced who has never previously been out of the country. Gonzalez is interning at Subir al Sur, an organization that advocates for children’s rights in Buenos Aires.
Earlier this spring, the Cultural Vistas Fellows took part in virtual learning activities to prepare for their time abroad, discuss issues specific to their host countries, and to learn about and from one another. The group then convened in New York City on May 30 for an orientation prior to traveling overseas. The group, in three different cohorts, is now spending June and July living and interning in Buenos Aires, Berlin, or Bangalore.
The Cultural Vistas Fellowship continues after the students return stateside. In August, the group will take part in a reentry seminar in New York City to reflect on their time overseas and begin developing their “Fellows in Service” projects to share knowledge they gained while abroad with their respective campuses and local communities during the Fall 2017 semester.
The 2017 Cultural Vistas Fellows are: